"Ann Romney's delicate balance wins her admirers"
By Susan Page
July 19, 2007 "Ann Romney had met Elizabeth Edwards only once and in passing, but the day after Edwards announced in March that her cancer had recurred in an incurable form, Romney called her.
"'I expressed my gratitude for her for continuing to fight on' in the presidential campaign and for the 'courage she's giving to other people that are struggling,' Romney says. 'And I said, "I totally understand why you're still fighting. I totally get it."'
"When she hung up the phone, Elizabeth Edwards told adviser Jennifer Palmieri she felt a 'special kinship' with Romney. "While the two women don't have much in common politically – Romney's husband is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Edwards' husband the Democratic one – each is all too familiar with the competing emotions and demands that come with balancing a serious disease and a spouse's political ambitions.
"Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, Romney, now 58, credits mainstream and alternative therapy with keeping her out of a wheelchair and putting the degenerative neurological disease in remission. As she begins to campaign on her own, she is talking more openly about her struggle and what it has taught her." ...
"While her MS was never kept a secret, Romney hadn't done much campaigning on her own when her husband made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 1994, before her diagnosis, or during his successful run for governor in 2002.
"'I decided I was very comfortable with it. Everybody has problems. Everyone has issues. And this happens to be a surprise thing that came in my life, and I didn't count on. Everywhere I go people come up to me, they mob me – anyone who has MS or has a relative with MS – they come up and hug and cry. I don't care what somebody else thinks about it. I know for certain people I'm championing a struggle that they're going through.'" ...
"When she was diagnosed nine years ago, however, she felt 'crushed into dust,' too exhausted even to open the mail and fearful that soon she would be unable to walk. A regimen that included both intravenous steroids and such alternative therapies as acupuncture and reflexology has enabled her to resume much of her life.
"That, and her horse Baron. An equestrian since she was a girl in Michigan, she began to ride again in hopes of regaining muscle tone. Now she competes in dressage competitions with her bay gelding." ...
"On this trip, she's accompanied by daughter-in-law Mary and grandson Parker, 16 months old and exuberant. Mary Romney, 25, is married to Ann Romney's youngest son, Craig. 'She's such a strong woman,' she says of her mother-in-law, but on the road 'I feel I need to protect her.' Mary tries to make sure Ann Romney doesn't have to stand in the sun for an extended period. The two do Pilates exercises together in their hotel room.
"At a campaign lunch in Greenville and the reception in Columbia, Ann Romney talks about other things, of course, touting her husband's record on health care while governor and his role in turning around the scandal-plagued Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002.
"Still, the crowd becomes hushed and attentive as she talks – sometimes matter-of-factly, sometimes with a catch in her voice – about how he stood by her during the worst days of her struggle with MS. She says it's taught her that everyone carries 'a bag of rocks' – some personal challenge or tragedy – even if others can't see it." ...